Mar adentro (review) — coated, sheathed, with sour bile arising from deep inside
The Sea Inside (Spanish: Mar adentro) is a 2004 Spanish drama film written, produced, directed, and scored by Alejandro Amenábar, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is based on the real-life story of Ramón Sampedro (played by Javier Bardem), who was left quadriplegic after a diving accident, and his 28-year campaign in support of euthanasia and the right to end his life. The film explores Ramón’s relationships with two women: Julia, a lawyer suffering from Cadasil syndrome who supports his cause, and Rosa, a local woman who wants to convince him that his life is worth living. Through the gift of his love, these two women are inspired to accomplish things they never previously thought possible.
The film exposed the ending for the audience in the beginning, but somehow this did not alleviate the sour bile rising in my throat when the screen dimmed. It was an impactful movie for me, especially in my country euthanasia is not yet a generally recognized topic. I feel like although there are various emotions weaved complexly together, they arise at the right place in the right time, nothing is forced, therefore although at some parts the movie is heavy and sad, the emotions came naturally.
Compared with Te Doy Mis Ojos, Mar Adentro feels more coated, sheathed — without angles or thrones, therefore I don’t think they could be measured with the same ruler. In Te Doy Mis Ojos, most of the events and consequences centre around Pilar, so it would naturally seem like facing the gender issue head-strong, while in Mar Adentro, it not only portrays the impact on Ramón’s life, but gives his closed ones a fair distribution of shots. This is also why I used “coated” to describe Mar Adentro — when life-death issues like euthanasia happens, it would fairly impact all the people in Ramón’s life, plus he took this issue publicly, general opinion would also be considered, and everything is so entangled together that sometimes it is hard to tell one from another, just like Gené, who is an advocator for freedom of decisions and who understands best Ramón’s will for death, would try to dissuade Ramón in the last moment — rationally she knows Ramón is living a life he has not wanted for decades and should let him go if he wishes so, but mentally Ramón is still her close friend and it would take so much courage to love him and let him go. The same mental conflict happened to a lot of characters in the movie as well, even to Ramón himself — letting go of Julia when he finally meets “the one” in his life after the beach.
I think Mar Adentro is definitely biased a bit towards euthanasia since its protagonist did go through the process, however I also feel like it has given enough chance for the other characters to portray opposite opinions emotionally and rationally, especially when the society as a whole still does not understand euthanasia that well, and in most countries it is still illegal, I consider this vocalization in favour of euthanasia is a good impact for the society. It is regretful that personally I don’t feel like I have understood the Catholic side of the argument though, I don’t think that was clear enough, but since I don’t understand religions well, I cannot tell whether this is due to my own ignorance or the film’s mistake. Overall, to me, Mar Adentro is a comprehensive and moving movie, and I think the Oscars also kind of chose their stance on euthanasia when they awarded this movie, which is not necessarily a bad thing — at least story and shot-wise, I think it definitely deserves the recognition.